In 1937 the British Admiralty issued a requirement for a novel type of aircraft to shadow enemy fleets, especially by night. The Air Ministry issued Specification S.22/37 calling for an aircraft compatible with aircraft carriers which would provide comfortable accommodation for a pilot, observer and radio operator, outstanding all-round view and the ability to cruise at 40 knots for 11 hours. Two prototypes were built, the Airspeed A.S.39 (serial N1323) and the General Aircraft G.A.L.38 (P1758). These flew after the out- break of the Second World War. Both were high-wing aircraft with extensive slats, flaps and drooping ailerons all in the slipstream of four 130-hp Pobjoy Niagara V radials driving fixed-pitch propellers. The G.A. aircraft was all-wood, but the Airspeed Fleet Shadower had a metal fuselage; the former had a nose- wheel and tall single fin, while the Airspeed had a tail-wheel and three small fins. Each seated the observer in a panoramic nose, the pilot high and behind and the radio operator further aft. Both aircraft met the requirement but the Admiralty changed their minds about the desirability of such an aircraft and scrapped this programme in 1940.
Span: 17.02m (55ft 10in)
Length: 11 m (36 ft 1 in)
Gross weight: 3897 kg (8590 lb)
Maximum speed: 185 km/h (115 mph).